Bugs and Bacteria: Gear Up for This Year’s Food Trends
Two of the most anticipated food trends of the coming year are a bit of a contradiction on the surface: bugs and bacteria.
At first glance, there is absolutely nothing appetizing about either of them. But that’s the beauty of food — and of innovation. The more and more aware we become — of our bodies, of our planet — the more likely we are to experiment and find solutions to our most pressing challenges. Food is no exception.
Insects and bacteria are showing up more and more in everyday foods because the world is creeping ever closer to the day when industrial animal husbandry is simply not viable. And with each passing year, it seems we have a greater understanding of what makes us tick and what makes us regular. Gut health is at a premium right now, and any trip through a well-stocked grocery store like Whole Foods is proof positive of this. But mind and soul health are also extremely prevalent today, and food offers a way to satiate all of these needs.
Families will find a lot to love about this year’s food predictions, along with a few head-scratchers. Appropriately, we’ll start with the stomach.
Before we can enjoy delicious food, we need to be ready to consume that food. Our stomachs are full of bacteria, and it’s vitally important to keep that bacteria “good.”
A happy gut can boost your immune system, help you shed pounds and improve digestion for those times when you just cannot resist the siren song of a caramelized sirloin. Probiotics are a good way to keep the gut healthy, and they are a natural byproduct of fermentation. So, it’s no wonder that these days the neighborhood grocery store is stocking fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha like they’re butter, cheese and coffee. So, don’t be surprised in 2019 when this trend gets even crazier.
And, Yes, Prebiotics
Many within the food industry, such as Whole Foods, see probiotics as the trendiest of the food trends for the coming year. But they will soon be joined by their workhorse partner prebiotics, which are dietary fibers that, when ingested, are gobbled up by the healthy bacteria in your stomach.
And one of the ways we will start to see pro- and prebiotics more and more is on store shelves not dedicated to supplements and perishables. Whole Foods stores and others are already stocking granola, nut butters, soups, oatmeal and nutrition bars chock full of healthy bacteria. Heck, you can even find probiotics in cleaning solutions.
Julia Child was famous for insisting that there is no limit to the amount of butter a cook can use when preparing anything. But what if you take away the food and just leave the butter?
Fats from vegetables and animals are often panned in the world of healthy living, but that started to change when low-carb and protein diets like ketogenic became more than a way of treating neurological disorders like epilepsy. A keto life, however, is actually light on food and heavy on fats (read more about it here) as a means to lose weight and improve brain functions.
One of the favorite breakfasts of a keto diet is coffee mixed with butter. While the idea of this runs the gamut from intriguing to revolting (we’ll keep our toast with that coffee and butter, thank you very much), it appears to be more than a fad. Companies like Soylent and Ample are already providing nutritional alternatives for those who want to avoid eating entirely. And for those who want to go full keto, there are all manner of bars, cups, non-dairy yogurts and chicken-flour chips full of fun fats and little else.
Vegetables are definitely back (if they ever left at all), and they’re getting a big boost thanks to something called “heme.” Heme is the protein that makes our blood red. In fact, it makes all animal blood red. But a few years ago, scientists at Impossible Foods discovered that heme is not exclusive to living things that contain blood and, in fact, is contained in every living thing.
This meant that Impossible Foods could recreate the oozing red liquid that for many meat eaters is a non-negotiable part of the hamburger without using any meat at all. The Impossible Burger was born, and now the science has become so mainstream that these plant-based “bleeding” burgers can be found in grocery stores nationwide.
Food experts see big things for heme and fake meat in 2019, but also for the meat-alternative market, as there is more awareness around the environmentally destructive ranching industry. So, while many meat lovers are finding a new flame in Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods offerings, they are also looking to gin up their humble vegetables with flavors common to meat — thanks mostly to salt, fat, heat and smoke.
Look for root vegetables and other heartier plants like Brussels sprouts to make a big impact on your belly in the new year. As we move away from meat-dominant diets, we’ll still need to satiate ourselves.
Let’s Bug You a Bit
Anyone who enjoyed the “Snowpiercer” movie remembers the iconic scene in which the poor folks who live at the back of the train learn how their only source of food is made: by grinding up cockroaches and forming them into gelatinous bars. It’s an unpleasant discovery, but at its core is something very common.
Insects and bugs are consumed by the vast majority of the human population, in some form, but not so much in the U.S. However, that’s going to change during the coming year and beyond. More and more chefs and food manufacturers are looking for ways to get protein into the diet without resorting to popular meat products like beef and chicken. Perhaps 2019 will become known as the year Americans finally start eating grubs and crickets alongside pork loin and T-bone steaks … yeah, probably not.
But what if we start with chips? Or Chirps, in this case. Creating flour out of insects or bugs will likely be a soft enough landing for many folks. Later, we’ll get into chocolate-covered crickets and worms. And before you know it, we’ll replace pillowy gnocchi with fluffy beetle larvae.
Why are we so excited? Because food is fun, and when you turn the unexpected into something marvelous and delicious, you’ve won all the awards.
Broccoli, cauliflower, banana, avocado and zucchini are all wonderful fruit and veggie choices on their own, but what if they could be made into pizza crust, rice, spaghetti, crackers and ice cream and still be enjoyable (or even better)? Known in the industry as “food swaps,” turning cauliflower into pizza crust became a supermarket sensation in 2018 thanks to Magioni. Expect more of this in 2019 in many other forms and with many other “swaps.” Not only is this kind of innovation fun, it’s also much healthier than the original and can get the kids eating right at a young age.
Ice cream, for instance, can be turned on its head with bananas or avocado replacing dairy, and it still tastes amazing. Cauliflower rice was all the rage a few years ago, but it turns out many veggies can be “riced” for a tastier and healthier alternative to the tiny grain. Green Giant is even in the game, so you know this one’s going to become mainstream.
It’s hard to believe we lived for so long without cortados and single-origin beans that taste and smell like red wine (and cost as much or more) being offered at every single coffee shop that dare open in this caffeine-obsessed world. But gourmet coffee feels so five years ago.
It’s time for tea to rightfully take its place as an anytime beverage worthy of a third-wave hipster jolt. After all, for every cup of coffee imbibed globally, there are three cups of tea consumed. And we’re not talking about saccharine-saturated matcha lattes from Starbucks (we’d rather eat a “Snowpiercer” protein bar). We’re talking about expertly sourced and brewed leaves from the far reaches of the planet. The stuff of legend.
So, get ready for craft tea blends, nitro tea, and tea and booze concoctions in 2019. And that whole probiotics craze is expected to hit the tea world as well.
Grains of Sacrifice
Sadly, many diet fads eschew grains not because grains themselves are bad for you but because commercial grain production is bad for everything. Let’s get this straight: Flour is not white by nature. So, it’s good to sacrifice overly processed grains, but there’s no reason to rid your diet of grains entirely (unless of course you have some health issue).
In 2019, expect two grains in particular to start creeping into grocery stores and the overall food world lexicon: fonio and kernza. That’s right: It’s going to be fonio bowls and kernza everywhere!
Kernza, in particular, is a fascinating grain — and one that might do more than just disrupt the dinner plate. Patagonia (yes, the clothing brand) is apparently making food now, including a beer that uses kernza. There’s a cereal that uses the new grain, and it’s being used for pasta and many other staples as well.
Fonio is a type of millet and is similar to quinoa in look, origin and texture. Its uses are numerous, and it’s full of things that are good for you. It hasn’t taken off yet, but there’s no reason it will remain in the background for long.
More Leafy Greens
The romaine lettuce crisis of 2018 might’ve scared some people off salad for good, but it’s likely they already detested bowlfuls of chlorophyll and just had a better excuse than ever to ditch greens. That won’t be the case in 2019 as farmers, chefs and homecooks look for alternatives to the king of the salad bar.
After you read this handy guide to romaine alternatives, you’ll realize most of these have been right under your nose the entire time. You probably just thought they were used for table and tray decorations instead of dinner. It’s time to give pea tendrils a chance.
Another great thing about leafy greens is their versatility. Many lettuces are terrific after a quick trip to the grill for some added flavor, and even more are a wondrous addition and beyond healthy boost to smoothies and fresh juices.
Speaking of Green...
All dad jokes aside, cannabis is really having its moment right now, and this trend is only going to grow in 2019. But lest you think it’s all about getting high and hungry, the real player in this game is cannabidiol. Better known as CBD, cannabidiol is still illegal under federal law, but that has done nothing to stop its rise to culinary fame.
Unlike the cannabinoid THC, which when ingested or inhaled causes the euphoria most associated with cannabis, CBD has a therapeutic rather than intoxicating effect on the body. This has made it extremely popular as an alternative to painkillers like opioids. And now it’s making its way into the minds of chefs and food manufacturers, beverages, essential oils, personal care products, balms, you name it.
There’s plenty of legal gray area here still to be worked out, but more and more states are legalizing cannabis for medicinal or adult use, so it’s only a matter of time before the laws swing in favor of CBD. CBD can also be derived from hemp plants and not just cannabis. For now, it can be enjoyed in many ways if you live in a cannabis-friendly state. How about CBD beer? Check out Lagunitas’ version that contains no alcohol. Same goes for coffee, gummies, face creams and, of course, chocolates.
And One More: Ditching Plastic
Not all food trends necessarily involve food, and the big move away from plastic is one of them. Plastic is so reviled these days that it’s a wonder it took us so long to realize the damage it’s been doing to Mother Nature.
With McDonald’s and Starbucks making huge strides in this area in 2018, our changing habits will force more and more companies to ditch plastic and figure out better ways to replace it. At Whole Foods stores, in particular, more and more brands will be ditching plastic for materials that can go straight into the compost bin, adding to an already impressive array of companies that have already done so.
Another expected development is the BYOB produce section. That would be bringing your own bag (not booze) to the grocery store for produce and bulk items. As Whole Foods noted in its own food predictions for 2019, “Some movements start as trends, then become necessities. This is one of them.”